Kiwi study claims video games don't make kids more aggressive

NZ 24/07/2020

A new meta-analysis of existing studies has found there is no meaningful link between video games and real-world violence.

The study, led by a Massey University researcher, combined the results of 28 studies containing a total of around 21,000 participants.

While violent video games are often used as a scapegoat by certain politicians and broadcasters following tragedies, science doesn't back up their claims.

"After conducting a meta-analysis on the available research, we find that playing violent video games does not appear to meaningfully increase the aggressiveness of players over time," says the study's lead author, Dr Aaron Drummond.

"There is a long-standing debate in the scientific literature about whether violent video games increase aggression. We found an extremely small effect of violent gameplay on aggression, which in our view is too small to be practically meaningful."

Dr Drummond, who is a senior lecturer at Massey University's School of Psychology, also identified problems with some of the studies examined in the research.

"We call for greater use of pre-registration practices in future work on violent video games to help reduce researcher subjectivity and increase the quality of research in this area."

Victoria University of Wellington lecturer Dr Simon McCallum adds that discussions around video games and violence are generally "motivated by fear rather than facts".

"The [study supports] the long-standing understanding of most people working in the game industry that the violence in games does not have long-term negative effects," says Dr McCallum.

"Youth violence has decreased as game playing has increased. Large groups of computer game players spend time with each other without any violence, whereas over the weekend, schoolboys were stood down for having a punch-up after a rugby game. This sort of violence is extremely rare at computer gaming events."

Dr McCallum also calls out problems with previous studies on games causing violence. 

"Much of the existing research has methodological flaws and often seems to be trying to justify an existing belief rather than reporting data. The study covers a wide range of research and does an excellent job of digging into each article to find potential bias."